Global accounting rules may face big delays

Wed Feb 3, 2010 8:45pm EST
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By Martin Howell

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The world's top accountants are warning that plans by the United States to move to global accounting standards are vulnerable to major delays and the process could get very politicized.

In interviews during last week's World Economic Forum in Davos, top executives from three of the Big Four accounting firms said discussions over a roadmap to move U.S. companies to international standards were reaching a crucial point.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has been reviewing public comments on a roadmap that would allow U.S. companies to use International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) by 2014. However, it is unclear whether SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro favors the timeline as it was drawn up under her predecessor Christopher Cox.

SEC officials said late last year that they are likely to consider further action early this year. The SEC wasn't immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

"I don't think you are going to rush to a global set of standards that everybody has bought into anytime soon," said Bob Moritz, the U.S. Chairman at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

He said that the original date of 2014 for one set of rules could easily extend to 2020. "I think it possibly could be then -- I hope not, because I am a firm believer," he said.

Moritz said that the CEOs of U.S. companies still had some major questions about moving to one set of rules, especially given many were still trying to dig their companies out of the financial crisis.

There was also concern about the way some countries in Central Europe were interpreting the rules, leading to doubts about whether a common set of standards was being created, he said.   Continued...